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Hackers Take Down Another Media Target

On Wednesday, hackers claiming to be affiliated with the Syrian Electronic Army may have penetrated the website of the International Business Times, an online business-news publication.

“It does indeed appear that we have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army,” said IB Times editor-in-chief Peter Goodman in an email. “Our IT people are evaluating. We are taking appropriate security measures.”

The hackers, who support the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, appear to have deleted a story about Syria’s shrinking army. While it still appears in Google News, the link to the article returns a 404 “page not found” error on the IB Times website. 

Google News still shows the deleted story.

If the goal was to suppress the article, the hackers weren’t completely successful: A version of the article was published with a new URL.

The International Business Times is owned by New York-based IBT Media, which also publishes Newsweek.

Another article with the headline “Hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army” now appears on the website. The article contains a screenshot which appears to be the site’s content-management system. Goodman’s username appears in the screenshot, along with a notification which indicates the article about Syria’s army was successfully deleted.

In the article, hackers threatened to delete the entire IB Times website.

The IB Times Twitter account acknowledged the incident in a tweet:

Spear-Phishing The Media

In an email to staff earlier Wednesday, IB Times managing editor Mark Bonner warned staff not to open any emails that appeared to come from IBT Media cofounder and chief content officer Johnathan Davis. Those emails included a link to a suspicious website, according to a source familiar with the incident.

Goodman said it was “unclear at this point, but possible” that his account had been penetrated. An attack like this targeting high-level individuals to obtain their login credentials is known as “spear phishing.”

Later on Wednesday, Bonner told staffers that the IB Times content-management system was down and that writers should submit articles to editors via Google Docs. A source confirmed that the screenshot of the IB Times content-management system posted in the “Hacked” article appeared to be authentic.

The IB Times hack comes on the heels of the large-scale hack of Sony Pictures, apparently conducted by hackers who objected to the studio’s release of The Interview, a movie about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Sony has cancelled the movie’s release amid threats of terrorist attacks on theaters which screen it.

In 2009, Gawker Media, the publisher of Gizmodo, Jezebel, and other websites, experienced a distributed denial-of-service attack aimed at rendering its sites inaccessible. And for four months beginning in late 2012, hackers in China attacked the computer systems of the New York Times, attempting to gain access to email and files

Together, these incidents suggest we’re entering an ugly world where people who object to a movie or a news article on political grounds won’t just leave nasty comments or tweet harsh criticisms. They’ll seek to eliminate their targets’ ability to publish.

Photo by Shutterstock; screenshots via IB Times

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Traffic To News Sites Down After Being Forced Out Of Google News in Spain by @mattsouthern

If you’ve ever wondered how important Google News is when it comes to driving traffic, I’d like to draw your attention to what’s going on in Spain right now. Google was recently forced to drop Spanish news websites from its news index after the country passed legislation allowing newspapers to charge if even a snippet of their content were to appear for free within Google News. Gigaom reports that external traffic to those Spanish news websites has since fallen by 10 to 15 percent compared to a week before the legislation was passed. While external traffic dropped, overall traffic was […]

The post Traffic To News Sites Down After Being Forced Out Of Google News in Spain by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Google’s Santa Tracker Is Up & Counting Down Days Until Santa’s Annual Sleigh Ride Around The Globe

Now that we have Thanksgiving out of the way, it’s time to start tracking Santa’s whereabouts. To make it easy, Google launched its Santa Tracker today, reminding us there are less than 23 days before Santa makes his annual trip around the globe. This year’s Google Santa Tracker…

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Google Down Slightly, Bing-Yahoo Up In October comScore Search Report

Google saw its share of the US search market drop slightly in October, while both Bing and Yahoo saw corresponding gains. That’s according to comScore’s October 2014 search engine rankings. ComScore estimates Google’s US market share at an even 67 percent for October, down from…

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Spotify Opens Up To Uber—But Closes Down Integration With Other Apps

A new partnership between Uber and Spotify will allow customers of both services to listen to music … while riding in an automobile. O brave new world!

As of November 21, Spotify customers with premium accounts can sync their playlists with Uber and stream music en route  the app-based car service announced on Monday. This new service will be a godsend to anyone who just lost his or her earbuds; Uber is heralding it as a feature you won’t get with competing car services. (Unless, of course, you have your earbuds.)

See also: Why YouTube Music Key Is Coming For Spotify And Pandora

This exclusive deal with Spotify, however, isn’t about the future of technology. It’s about the past. 

While Spotify is inking one-off deals like the Uber partnership, it’s also closing its App Finder and ending support for in-client desktop apps. That’s more or less a rejection of the service’s previous devotion to BizDev 2.0, a strategy outlined years ago by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake in which new services build out their ecosystem by letting third-party developers freely use their APIs (see our API explainer). 

Last week, Spotify’s pull-up-the-drawbridge strategy claimed Soundrop as a victim. The service, a popular Web based music-sharing app primarily used with Spotify, announced it will close its listening rooms on December 31.

Instead, Spotify is focused on developing its mobile service—one that never featured third-party apps or an App Finder. Though Spotify has a lead in the streaming music market over rivals such as Deezer and Rhapsody, its real competition remains established providers like Apple and YouTube—the latter of which recently launched its own music subscription service.

Lead image by Johan Larsson

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China Doubles Down On Robotics

China aspires to build a robotics industry that will claim 45 percent of the global market by 2020, the government-controlled Xinhua News Agency reports.

China already buys more industrial robots than any other nation, having purchased 36,560 units in 2013. However, only 9,000 of those robots were built in China. The country hopes that government support and investments will help to turn China into the world’s biggest producer, as well as buyer, of robots, reports Computerworld’s Beijing correspondent, Michael Kan.

See also: Thanks Mark Zuckerberg! Now China Knows We’re Stupid

In order to get the ball rolling, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will draft a “robotics technology roadmap.” Currently, industrial robots in China predominantly assist in automotives, but the roadmap would have them eventually assisting in construction, food production, and several other industries.

The International Federation of Robotics notes that while the United States and Japan currently possess more industrial robots than China, the latter should surpass every other country by 2017, with a projected 427,900 units.

Photo of automotive robots at work (not in China) by Spencer Cooper

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Apple Pay: 1 Million Cards Down, 599 Million To Go

Apple Pay courtesy of McDonald’s

The breathless hype around Apple Pay among technology insiders and security fanatics doesn’t seem to be matched by iPhone users.

On Monday, at a technology conference organized by the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple had activated 1 million credit cards in the first 72 hours after Apple Pay launched.

See also: Apple Pay: I’m Not Impressed

That sounds impressive—until you consider that there are more than 600 million credit and debit cards in the United States, and Apple has sold an estimated 20 million Apple Pay-compatible iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units.

There are some factors limiting Apple Pay’s reach. Not all banks work with Apple Pay yet, and Apple Pay is only available in the United States. Also, some users likely added more than one card to their Apple Pay wallets. So it’s difficult to come up with a clean figure for Apple Pay’s market share among eligible iPhone 6 users.

Nevertheless, it’s clearly a pretty small portion of the iPhone universe. So much for the grand theories about Apple leveraging its 800 million credit and debit cards on file with iTunes to take over the world of payments. Or for the notion that transaction fees from Apple Pay will make up a substantial revenue stream for Apple anytime soon.

Credit Where It’s Due

Give Apple credit: It’s punching far above its weight in payments, thanks to the power of its brand name. 

But it will ultimately take more than the gee-whiz novelty factor of paying with a phone tap or fearmongering about the security of credit cards to get consumers to switch from their existing payment routines. 

Before you start ranting about how Apple Pay is more secure, let’s get some things out of the way. Yes, Apple’s technique of disguising account numbers is a wise practice that we will see broadly adopted across many payment methods. Yes, the concerns about magnetic-stripe cards are real and legitimate, given the breaches at major retailers like Target and Staples. No, those concerns will not, by themselves, prompt most consumers to switch away from swiping their cards.

Instead, it will take substantial incentives, as banks themselves seem to realize. Wells Fargo is offering cardholders $20 to sign up for Apple Pay. Other banks may follow, if they haven’t already. What’s in it for them? By setting their cards up as the default choice in Apple Pay, banks hope to win a bigger share of customers’ spending.

Even then, we may not see widespread adoption for Apple Pay and other swiped-card alternatives until October 2015, when merchants and banks will have a hard choice: Either they must take on the risk of credit-card fraud, or adopt more secure systems like Apple Pay and new chip-based cards.

As Apple executive Eddy Cue wisely said on the day Apple Pay launched, “There’s a lot to do here and we have a lot of work to do.”

It does no one any good to exaggerate the significance of Apple Pay’s early adoption. A million cards sounds like a lot—until you realize the vast scale of the payments world Apple is playing in. (PayPal’s Braintree unit, for example, has 85 million cards on file.)

The right way to think about Apple Pay is as a catalyst for further changes in the payments landscape. By getting banks and retailers to work together on a new technological scheme for payments, Apple has broken the logjam. A flood of change is coming. It just may not all bear the Apple logo.

Lead photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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Kickstarter Shuts Down Another Anonymous-Making Internet Router

Days after Kickstarter took down a campaign for Anonabox, the controversial Internet router that allegedly would keep its users anonymous, the company shut down a subsequent project that purported to fill its shoes.

See also: Kickstarter Shuts Down Anonabox Amid Controversy

TorFi, created by University of Michigan law graduate Jesse Enjaian and his friend David Xu, would have been a more honest incarnation of Anonabox. However, honesty doesn’t seem to be the solution where Kickstarter was concerned. The company closed down funding for TorFi after sending Enjaian an email that it wasn’t “innovative enough.”

“I’m frustrated because they claim that using pre-existing routers and modifying the software is not innovative enough for their standards,” Enjaian told ReadWrite. “I believe our idea filled a social need and was sufficiently unique, but I’m not going to challenge their decision.”

Unlike the previous project, TorFi was upfront about the fact that it was using a prefab hardware solution for the router, and simply installing the Tor security software on top of it. This may not sound like much, but it’s a service that’s clearly in demand. After all, Anonabox earned nearly $600,000—and this despite the controversy.

Enjaian, who once had law officials confiscate his computer during cyberstalking allegations while he was still a student, can especially empathize with why people might want to seek security and anonymity while browsing the Internet.

“TorFi aims to satisfy the demand demonstrated for a simple, plug-and-play, secure access point to the Internet… with no more technical knowledge than what it takes to plug into a home ISP connection,” he wrote on the project overview.

For people who are still seeking a plug-and-play anonymity solution for the Internet, Invizbox is on IndieGoGo and the crowdfunding site hasn’t shut it down—yet.

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Kickstarter Shuts Down Anonabox Amid Controversy


Kickstarter has suspended the crowdfunding campaign for Anonabox, a gadget that had earned nearly $600,000 from 9,000 backers in just a few days. Despite its popularity, it appears that the project ran afould of Kickstarter guidelines.

See also: Tiny Box Promises To Keep You Anonymous On The Internet

The gadget claimed to use a combination of the Tor privacy software and a custom, open-source hardware frame to create a tiny router that anonymized its users. However, as the device continued to ramp up in popularity, these claims came under fire.

When its creator, security consultant August Germar, gave an “Ask Me Anything” interview on Reddit about the project, he was unable to explain how the hardware was “custom” and not just a generic pre-produced item. Sleuths found exact copies of the Anonabox frame on Chinese suppliers’ sites. And given that those Chinese products turned out to be regular factory-made routers, many became suspicious of the Anonabox claim to keep users truly anonymous.

Kickstarter’s actions tends to support redditors’ claims. The company suspended the project Friday. Kickstarter did not and does not typically give a reason for project suspensions, but its terms of service state that all projects must be “honest and clearly presented.”

If this development hasn’t scared supporters away from the gadget, Germar told Quartz that the device will still be for sale on the project’s website

Photo via Anonabox

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Twitpic Is Now Shutting Down After All

First Twitpic was shutting down. Then it wasn’t. And now it is again.

After getting people’s hopes up that the photo repository might stick around a bit longer, Twitpic announced that it will indeed shut down on October 25.

See also: Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Former users can export their pictures and data through their account settings before the October 25 deadline, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

We worked through a handful of potential acquirers and exhausted all potential options. We were almost certain we had found a new home for Twitpic (hence our previous tweet), but agreeable terms could not be met.

Twitpic mosaic by evan courtney

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